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Legislature asks judge to put limits on Whitmer's emergency power

gretchen whitmer sitting at table

The Legislature’s Republican leaders Friday asked a Michigan Court of Claims judge to place restrictions on Governor Gretchen Whitmer’s power to declare a COVID-19 state of emergency.

They say Whitmer cannot continue to declare new states of emergency every 28 days without legislative approval.

Attorney Michael Williams said they agree the law grants the governor sweeping power to deal with a crisis.  

“But in doing so the Legislature also ensured that the governor was in some ways limited, in some ways constrained because, again, the governor is ultimately an executive office whose ultimate job is to execute the laws and not make them," he said.

Attorney Chris Allen represents the governor. He says the governor’s authority under the law lasts until the emergency is over.

“There’s nothing in the text at all about the governor’s inability to continue responding if the disaster exists. And I think that’s part of the absurdity of here, your honor. There’s no dispute that a disaster and an emergency exists.”

Allen says there is nothing stopping individual citizens from challenging the governor if they think the emergency is over.

Whitmer’s attorney says she may continue to declare states of emergency for as long as the conditions exist to justify it.

Michigan Radio listeners, readers, and reporters are rising to the challenge every day. If you can, please support essential journalism during this crisis.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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